The release we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived, with the DVD and BluRay of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece of nerdery, Ready Player One, landing in stores this week. Not since Basic Instinct have cinema-goers been so eager to pause and rewind a movie to get every last detail. So, make yourself comfortable, grab your remote and get set to unravel the endless Easter eggs in this incredible homage to all things 80s.
On one level, Ready Player One is a straightforward action & adventure film set in cyberspace. It is essentially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Tron, with Mark Rylance’s aging James Haliday searching for a suitable successor to take over his ‘world of pure imagination’. Enter Tye Sheridan as “Parzival”, who is aided and abetted by Olivia Cooke’s “Art3mis” and Lena Waithe’s “Aech”; they all band together to beat the evil IOI organization to win the big prize. This is a multi-player game—like Destiny, Fortnite or Full Tilt—where you can become whomever you want to be with your fellow players, regardless of whom you are in the real world.
At least that’s what you’ll see on the first watch, anyway. From then on, you’ll quickly become a ‘Gunter’—or Easter egg hunter—yourself, just like the heroes on the screen. This is because it’s impossible to resist looking for all the hidden treasures as you pause, rewind, and watch again to spot the endless references strewn throughout the movie. This is “Where’s Wally?” on an epic scale; it tests your knowledge of all things 80s, from classic video games and Superman dialogue to Prince stage outfits and timeless John Hughes movies.
[photo by JMortonPhoto.com, CC BY-SA 4.0]
A race to spot them all
Just like the original Ernest Cline novel, Ready Player One is awash with cultural references big and small. Some of these loom large (like the DeLorean from Back to the Future in the opening race), but some are much harder to spot and will reward the more attentive, repetitive viewer. For example, that same race also includes the Simpsons’ car, the Mad Max interceptor, the A-Team van, the Pontiac Firebird from Smokey and the Bandit, the ’57 Plymouth that turned evil in Christine, and even the Tron light cycle. And don’t forget to check the faces in the crowd, where you’ll find R2-D2 and C3PO cheering on the racers.
And that’s just that start of it. Empire magazine’s August issue sat down with Cline and screenwriter Zak Penn to list 209 different references, while Den of Geek offer a handy online guide to dozens of the best-hidden gems. There’s no way you’ll spot them all the first time around, so be glad that DVDs don’t burn out like old VHS tapes.
The best part is that all of this is just a bonus, because Ready Player One stands up as a cracking romp of a movie on its own, without any of these trimmings. It’s original and inventive, and it is one of the best things Spielberg has done in years. And even if the happily-ever-after ending is a touch twee, and the jeopardy is never quite intense enough, it never outstays its welcome—even after almost two-and-a-half hours.
It’s a great investment, because you’ll get twice the value for your DVD or BluRay purchase—a movie plus the ultimate geek-test, all rolled into one. Cline and Penn may confess to 209 Easter eggs, but you’re sure to spot loads more before your pause button finally gives up the ghost. So, get ready, player one, for the ultimate Easter egg hunt!